Discuss a symbol in The Cellist of Sarajevo.

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The most obvious symbol in the book is the cellist, himself.  The fundamental symbol of the cellist playing his music in broad daylight in Sarajevo to honor the death of his fellow countrymen is one that opens the book, and does not really do much else.  Yet, it is there throughout the book for the three primary characters who have to fundamentally choose if they take the form of the world around them or defy it and act in opposition to it, like the cellist.  His symbol of playing music every day to honor those who died is a symbol of not taking the world around him and using what he has as a weapon of protest.  It is this symbol that ends up causing the other three characters to make fundamental choices about their lives during a horrific moment in human history.  The cellist's overall symbolic meaning demonstrates that individuals can make choices and can define their own senses of self in the worst of conditions.  Moreover, the cellist's symbolic value is that during the worst of times, it is more incumbent on individuals to take responsibility for their lives and define their identity so that others will not do it for them.